What were you doing in March this year?
I’d have been emerging from my semi-hibernation, looking forward to the daylight stretching and hoping the longer dog walks and time away from the biscuit tin might help me shake off my winter layer of blubber.
(Spoiler alert: they haven’t.)
Eilish McColgan was catching Covid.
In interviews, she says the virus left her floored for a fortnight and stopped her running for about a month.
But she still bounced back in time to set a new British 5K record in Malaga at the end of April.
And she’d almost certainly have done better in the 10,000 metres at the World Athletics Championships in June if a hamstring injury hadn’t dashed her medal hopes.
Still, anyone questioning her determination must have packed their doubts away on Wednesday evening, as the 31 year-old turned in the biggest performance of her career.
Eilish McColgan’s record-breaking win in the 10,000 metres – that’s 10km, or six miles, to you and me – has made her the darling of the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
The crowd went wild.
Her mum Liz declared it “100 times better” than her own 10,000 metre victories at the 1986 and 1990 games.
And a nation of armchair athletics fans yelled themselves hoarse in front of their tellies as the Dundee runner delivered the standout moment of the Birmingham event.
Eilish McColgan shone in Birmingham and Dundee United did the same at home
It was a dazzling performance in anyone’s book.
But in the context of all Eilish McColgan has had to overcome, this year alone, success must have tasted all the sweeter.
And, not for the first – or final – time this week, the rest of us were reminded of the life-enhancing power of sport.
The Lionesses triumph over Germany in the Euro 2022 final on Sunday was hailed not just as a victory for England but a turning point for women’s football and a slapdown for its sexist critics.
The Commonwealth Games have served up exceptionalism from the diving board to the cycling track.
Closer to home, Dundee United’s 1-0 defeat of AZ Alkmaar at Tannadice on Thursday night had old hands comparing the atmosphere inside and outside the stadium to the club’s glory days in the 1980s.
The Europa Conference League qualifier was United’s first win in European football in a decade.
Fans marched in their thousands to the match with flags, banners and smoke bombs.
And if enthusiasm counts for anything, this result is already in the bag.
Sport is a bright spot in dark days
We tend to think of sport as one of life’s fripperies.
Much like music, and the arts, it’s a nice add-on but not the stuff that makes the world go round. A luxury we could probably all live without if it came down to it.
And maybe that’s true.
I can take it or leave it mostly.
Like a lot of women I abandoned actually playing sports the minute the final whistle blew on my last game of high school hockey.
I’ll look up from what I’m doing if I hear fans shouting loud enough on the TV. But you wouldn’t catch me anywhere near the sidelines.
And I watch my dad troop out the door clutching his St Johnstone season ticket every week with a mixture of trepidation and respect for his conviction that “maybe this will be the week…”
But in a time when joy can often feel in short supply it was sport that gave me something positive to write about this week.
And sport that lit a spark in lots of other people’s lives.
Eilish McColgan and Dundee United give us something to believe in
That Covid mental health ‘timebomb’ we’ve all been warned about must be ticking its head off by now.
But it’s also jostling with a host of other hazards we hadn’t been bracing for.
A cost of living crisis, a climate crisis, the deepest recession since the Second World War, the seemingly endless Conservative leadership contest, the war in Ukraine, a summer of strikes (I could go on).
Sport provides a distraction from all that, certainly.
But it also celebrates perseverance, hard work, hope and the wholesome joy of finding pleasure in other people’s happiness.
Eilish McColgan, Dundee United and all the rest of the triers gave us all something to believe in this week
And in a world where positives can be hard to come by, even the most indolent couch potato has to raise a cheer for that.